The Gilboa Region takes its name from the mountain that looms over it, but much of it is situated in the environs of Beit She’an, in a section of the Jezreel Valley known as the Valley of Springs. Water from the mountain aquifer emerges from the slopes of the Gilboa into this fertile area, which is now largely agricultural. From ancient times, it was also a natural thoroughfare across the Jordan Valley; the gentle upward slope of the Jezreel Valley allowed much easier passage to the coast than did the steep slopes of the mountains further south. As such, it was the site of many an ancient battle – ancient sources are filled with tales of warring armies clashing in the region, most notably those of King Saul when he and his son Jonathan perished below the mountain.
Hikers today find much quieter surroundings, with flowing streams, springs, palm and eucalyptus groves, and a towering mountain dominating views of the area. During fall and spring, birds migrating between Africa and northern Europe come through the Jordan Valley in droves, and every body of water (including the open fish ponds) becomes a birdwatcher’s paradise. Above the valley in the pine woods of Mt. Gilboa, the rare and beautiful Gilboa Iris blooms for a few weeks in March and April; the Abraham Path passes immediately next to the reserve where it grows most densely.